‘Top Chef’ D.C. Episode II: The Bipartisandwich
How many of you felt a slight wave of nausea when Padma used the word, "Bipartisandwich" during the opening minutes of Top Chef D.C. last night? My nausea grew into a full-on case of dry heaves when the quick-fire challenge became the cooking equivalent of a three-legged race: Producers bound two chefs together in a uni-apron, colored red and blue of course, and asked them to create a sandwich in 30 minutes.
What this had to do with bipartisanship was anyone's guess. This was more a company picnic game to see which chef could better cook with one hand tied behind his/her back. The extreme conditions of the 30-minute quick-fire — coordinating your every move and every slice of the knife with another human — reduced the difficult decision-making process to a mere afterthought. This wasn't an example of bipartisanship; this was the Gong Show.
And did the producers stop for a minute to think about the race implications of Alex Reznik, "son of a first-generation European family," being constantly worried about getting knifed by Timothy Dean, a D.C. native and Howard University grad? "Every time I grab the knife, he's like, 'Tim, Tim, don't cut me, please don't cut me," Dean tells one camera crew. "I'm like, I'm not going to cut you ... at least not yet!"
The producers may have captured a slice of D.C.'s complex, distrustful race relations without even knowing it.
Assistant White House chef and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass, playing the stiff policy wonk perfectly, introduced the elimination challenge. As expected, the contestants had to prepare a healthy, well-rounded lunch for only $2.68 per student, which is essentially the amount the feds reimburse schools for each eligible student in the lunch program (though some take exception to this math). The challenge was conducted, as predicted earlier, at Alice Deal Middle School, where 50 ravenous kids/critics waited to pass judgment.
If anything, this challenge proved the difficulties of bipartisanship as Kelly kept annoying her teammates, first, by dictating the direction of their cheap, nutritious lunch, then taking all the credit. Sound like any Senator you know? Sound like every Senator you know?
In true Mr. Smith Goes to Washington fashion, Kelly got her comeuppance: She won the challenge. We understand Angelo is plotting his smear campaign even as we speak.
Jacqueline, by the way, was the odd chef out during this challenge. She received the boot for adding two pounds of sugar to her starchy banana pudding. She lost despite the fact that Tom Colicchio compared clueless Amanda's sherry-jus chicken to a "turd." It was the best and most honest moment on Top Chef D.C. so far.
Photo courtesy of Top Chef